Adieu, Smart Growth BC (1999–2010)

I first met Smart Growth BC at the Garden City Lands town hall meeting that drew an overflow crowd of more than 200 people at Kwantlen’s Richmond campus in March 2007. Ione Smith, who was Smart Growth’s ALR coordinator, made a strong case against the proposed dense development of the lands. Ione remained interested and supportive until she eventually moved on to private consulting.

A year after the town hall meeting, the feedback survey for the Garden City Lands open houses put on by the development proponents made the prominent claim that the development would be Smart Growth. That claim might have fooled respondents into supporting the development, along with the prerequisite exclusion of the lands from the ALR. However, Smart Growth BC’s executive director, Cheeying Ho, sent a letter to Richmond council that made it very clear that the development would not be Smart Growth. Unfortunately for Smart Growth, Cheeying moved on two years ago to take up a leading-edge position as executive director of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.

For the Garden City Lands Coalition, Smart Growth BC has been a great resource. You can still see that on the website, where I suggest you go to the Issues menu and click on “10 Smart Growth Principles,” “Agricultural Land,” and other topics. Smart Growth BC has been a strong supporter of the ALR, and its ALR Watch listserv has facilitated province-wide communication about it.

What is Smart Growth? The organization answers like this:

Smart Growth is a collection of land use and development principles that aim to enhance our quality of life, preserve the natural environment, and save money over time. Smart Growth principles ensure that growth is fiscally, environmentally and socially responsible and recognizes the connections between development and quality of life. Smart Growth enhances and completes communities by placing priority on infill, redevelopment, and green space protection.

A recent news release—dated May 5 but sent to Smart Growth BC supporters on May 21—states:

Smart Growth BC today announced that its programs and brand have been acquired by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC).

. . . CaGBC will incorporate the established smart growth programs into an integrated set of offerings for buildings and communities.

We’ll believe that when we see it. Canada Green Building Council is all about buildings. Its vision statement says:

The Council will work to:

  • change industry standards,
  • develop best design practices and guidelines,
  • advocate for green buildings, and
  • develop educational tools to support its members in implementing sustainable design and construction practices.

Smart Growth BC isn’t against any of that but goes so much further, with an emphasis on responsible land use and other values that don’t even seem to be part of CaGBC thinking. I’m particularly concerned that Smart Growth BC’s thorough understanding of ALR matters and strong ALR commitment are likely to be lost. Of course, there is also a small chance that CaGBC will transform itself into a national Smart Growth organization that builds on what Cheeying Ho and her team built—and reinvigorates it.

Whatever happens, I thank Smart Growth BC on behalf of the Garden City Lands Coalition. Special appreciation to Cheeying Ho and Ione Smith, who came through for us when we needed them. Cheeying is now executive director for the Whistler Centre for Sustainability. Ione’s company, Upland Consulting, provides sustainable land use planning. We can be sure that the sustainable is the real thing at a time when the term has been devalued by doctors of sustainable spin. We wish Cheeying and Ione every success, and we have no doubt that they will achieve it.



  1. 1
    Cheeying Ho Says:

    Thanks for the wonderful blog and tribute. We are proud for the work we’d done over the last ten years and glad to have been able to support great initiatives and groups such as the Garden City Lands Coalition. Smart Growth BC has now merged its programs with Canada Green Building Council for the next stage of its life.

  2. 2
    kewljim Says:

    We also received this welcome response from CaGBC:

    Hello Jim,

    CaGBC is working to ensure SGBC continues to support the BC market and all the smart growth principles.

    The lists serves are running and we are slowly working with the website and other areas to ensure the market is supported.


    Ron Lemaire
    Vice President, Market Development
    Canada Green Building Council

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